If you care about Montana’s Smith River, it’s time to pay attention. Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality just released a draft environmental analysis paid for by the Australian-owned mining company proposing to build a large mine in the headwaters of the Smith River. We will be conducting an expert, scientific review of this analysis and the risks this mine poses to water quality, water quantity, habitat and fish in the Smith. Stay connected with us for more information based on our review and about the public comment period on this critical issue.
On Friday, February 22, at 3pm in Room 172 the House Natural Resources Committee of the Montana Legislature will be hearing a bill sponsored by Rep Willis Curdy (D-Missoula). We have reviewed and commented on this critical appropriations bill extensively. We are advocating that the $13 million it appropriates to prevent and contain the spread of aquatic invasive species in our rivers and lakes be funded by the diverse community of stakeholders that are affected by the negative impacts of AIS. Last month the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation estimated that invasive mussels alone could cost Montana $234 million annual mitigation and lost-revenue costs. The three economic sectors that are at greatest risk are recreation, agriculture, and water infrastructure such as hydroelectric facilities. At a minimum, the bill should require funding from the following sources:
- Anglers have and should continue to help pay for Montana’s AIS program. In the previous funding bill, resident and non-resident anglers contributed through an AIS license that was required to hold a fishing license in the state. That provision should remain in the new funding bill.
- Because boats are both a vector for transporting AIS and are at risk of damage because of some AIS, like invasive mussels, boaters should also contribute to this fund. The current version of the bill includes a range of fees assessed on boats depending on whether they are motorized or non-motorized and size. We support this source of funding.
- Hydroelectric facilities face some of the greatest financial risks with the potential spread of AIS, especially invasive mussels. Hydroelectric facilities contributed to the 2017 version of the AIS funding mechanism and should remain in any bill the 2019 Legislature considers. DNRC’s study showed that infrastructure could suffer an estimated $47 million/year impact from invasive mussels.
- According to the same DNRC study, “the direct impact of invasive mussels to agriculture is estimated to be $5.75 per acre foot or $61 million per year.” Investing in the prevention of this risk should be a priority for the agricultural economy and community in Montana.
Tell Legislators that HB411 is critical to containing and preventing the spread of AIS in Montana and ensuring the future health of our fisheries, agriculture, hydropower, property values, recreation, and way of life. Fully funding the AIS program should include investment from anglers, boaters, hydroelectric facilities, and the agricultural community, at the least.
Contact members of the House and Senate Natural Resources Committees about this bill now and ask for their support. You can leave a message for legislators by clicking here or at the Capitol switchboard: 444-4800. If you use the website link, you will need to fill out the form with general contact information, select the appropriate committee, select “for” HB411, and write a short comment. The contact form will only allow you to send the message to one recipient at a time. Please copy your message and submit it to both the House and Senate Natural Resources Committees.
If you have questions or thoughts on this or any other legislative priority, please feel free to contact MTU’s full-time Government Affairs Coordinator, Clayton Elliot, [email protected]
Blackfoot River Outfitters hosts its annual Memorial Float October 13, 2018. This float annual float is held in the memory of lost loved ones. Guides donate their time and the proceeds from the event are donated. Montana Trout Unlimited is honored to be the recipient of the proceeds of this special float. All funds raised will be put toward our work to protect Montana’s Smith River. There are both guided fishing and scenic float options. Visit the the Blackfoot River Outfitters Memorial Float site for more information and more ways to participate!
Public Hearing Dates
Great Falls: Monday, October 30th from 6-9 PM, Great Falls Civic Center, 2 Park Drive South
White Sulphur Springs: Wednesday, November 1stfrom 6-9 PM, White Sulphur Springs High School Gymnasium, 405 South Central Avenue
Suggested Public Comment Talking Points
The Wild Fishery of the Smith River Basin: DEQ should evaluate the baseline conditions of the Sheep Creek and Smith River wild and native trout fishery. The Tintina project has the potential to dewater and contaminate both surface water and groundwater connected to the Sheep Creek tributary, and then to the main Smith River. There is clear evidence that wild trout, and potentially some native fish species, use Sheep Creek extensively for spawning and as a cold water refuge during low, warm water conditions in the Smith. There is also clear evidence that during their life-cycle, trout migrate between Sheep Creek, the Smith River, and the Missouri River. In addition, during periods of low water, Sheep Creek is the largest source of clean, cold water to the mainstem river, which is vital for the health of the entire Smith River fishery all the way to its confluence with the Missouri River. Considering that impacts to water quality and quantity in Sheep Creek are a concern for the fishery all the way into the Missouri, there must be a thorough baseline study of this extensive, at-risk fishery. DEQ should include and rely upon Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, Region 4 fishery biologists and managers in the EIS analysis.
Smith River supporters will have another opportunity to voice their concerns about Tintina Resource’s proposed copper mine on Sheep Creek. Montana DEQ has announced a fourth public meeting to be held in Helena. For more information about the scoping process or talking points for comments please visit smithriverwatch.org or refer to our October 16, 2017 post.
Public Scoping Meetings and Locations
- Monday, October 30, 2017 – Great Falls Civic Center, 2 Park Drive South, Great Falls, MT
- Wednesday, November 1, 2017 – White Sulphur Springs High School Gymnasium, 405 South Central Avenue, White Sulphur Springs, MT
- Monday, November 6, 2017 – Radisson Colonial Hotel, 2301 Colonial Drive, Helena, MT
- Tuesday, November 7, 2017 – Park County High School Gymnasium, 102 View Vista Drive, Livingston, MT
All meetings are scheduled from 6-9 p.m. Stay tuned for information on ride share and bus transport option.
Written comments may also be submitted electronically to [email protected] or by mail to:
Department of Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 200901
Helena, MT 5962-0901